: Let's Discuss True Survivors and Originality.

03-08-10, 11:53 AM
The latest thing in collector cars seems to be 100% original, unrestored examples. It's only original once, is the phrase.

The diehard believers say (paraphrasing a quote from Hemmings Classic Car a few issues back): "No restored car can be as great as a true survivor, no matter how many flaws."

They feel an unrestored rustbucket 1957 Chevy should take top honors at a car show? Just because it is a survivor, and no one invested the time to restore it? Not that I have anything against true survivors (there is a particularly nice unrestored Squarebird that frequents the cruise nights), but I believe, in most cases, originality should be sacrificed and restoration is the right choice to make with a classic car. (Major modifications are a whole 'nother story.)

Of course, different strokes for different folks.

Let's say someone gifted you an unrestored older car. Far from perfect and not exactly "presentable," but a good 10 footer. Would you keep it exactly as it is? Would you repaint? Would you restore it to it's former glory? Let's assume that your financial situation is NOT a major factor.

Where do you fall in the battle between restoration and originality?

03-08-10, 01:24 PM
As a certified JCNA (Jaguar Cars of North America) Concours d'Elegance judge, I understand well what you are talking about here. First let me say that "restored" cars and "original" cars should not be judge against each other. At JCNA sanctioned shows we have classes for restored cars, driven cars and original, unrestored "survivor" cars (Preserrvation Class) and the different classes are not judged on the same criteria. The only way a survivor car would be in competition with a restored car would be for "Most Popular" which would be voted on by those attending the show not judges.

I personnaly prefer a truly well maintained and preserved original car over a beautifully restored car. Not only do I have a deep respect for the care taken to keep an aging car in as good a shape as possible. But I feel that the "original" car shows the true place the car occupied in the auto world through its' quality of assembly and quality of materials.

All too often restored cars show the restorers skills in turning out beautiful work rather than levels of materiaals and finish that were present on the showroom floor when the car was new. This is particularly ture of Jaguars which all to often restored to levels quality that were never even close to the reality of Jaguar production cars. These over restored cars, "Guilded Lillies," do not accurately show the make for what it was, a beautifully designed car capable of high performance, but built to a price that would permit it to be sold to a upper middle income market segment. Jags were never meant to be Rolls-Royces. Ferraris are another marque which receive the "Guilded Lilly" treatment in most cases being restored to levels never achieved by actual production Ferrari road cars. If the televised auctions are any indication this same over restoration problem afflicts many other foreign and domestic makes.

I think it is because of this long standing trend toward over restoration that the "survivor" cars have come into there own in the marketplace. That and the true scarcity of very good to excellent survivor cars in the market. For a long time the price commanded by fully and well restored cars way out did that of very nice survivors, but because of the scarcity of really true survivors this market evaluation has changed.

There is another problem, when purchasing a fully restored car (particularly true with Jags) and that is the ability to cover up real problem areas of the car with body work and good paint jobs. Unless a buyer is truly skilled and knowledgeable in assessing the originality of the underlying car many defects can be covered from buyer. This is particalarly true of Jaguar E-types with their jig manufacture monocoque body hulls. These bodies are very susceptable to rust damage and collision damage. Once the body panels are corrupted either by rust dmage or collision damage it is virtually impossible to repair them to their original integrity and appearance no matter how much one spends on body work. However, most restored Jaguars on the show circuits have had their body tubs patched or otherwise repaired and thus in my opinion make the restored cars less valuable than truly original unmolested cars.

As far as the owner's personal enjoy just a matter of what he himself values and enjoys. However, I think fro here on "survivor" cars will continue to bring premiums over restored cars because of their rarity and value to the historical perspective of the makes they represent.

03-08-10, 02:38 PM
The latest thing in collector cars seems to be 100% original, unrestored examples. It's only original once, is the phrase.

First off, This is nothing new. It has been going on since the 40’s when people started really collecting cars. I agree original cars should not be judged with restored cars. This would be unfair since they have two different sets of criteria. How ever you are not talking about a rust bucket 57 Chevy, when the original gets thrown around it means a well taken care of original car that survived XX number of years without being molested, hot rodded, crashed, rusted out, or restored. When the cars condition is a detriment to the originality (ie. rusty '57) than the car is not a survivor, it is in need of restoration. These survivor cars are pieces of history. 90% of “restored” cars are restored to look nice, not to be accurate to the way it left the factory. I personally will take a Survivor original low mileage anything over a restored car, and an accurately restored car over anything else.


03-08-10, 02:50 PM
I like the idea of unrestored survivor cars, but in most cases, a car has aged too much to really look good without being restored.

Betty was in decent shape when I got her back in 1999, but she definitely needed a repaint and repairs to rust damage:




Compared to now:


Likewise, the interior wasn't totally trashed; most of the wear was on the driver's seat, but she needed new upholstery and carpet:



Fortunately, I was able to restore Betty's interior with the original style upholstery, which I love:



The engine was rebuilt to stock specifications and remains pretty much original, including the Rochester 4GC carburetor. I did put in an electronic ignition so I wouldn't have to mess with points anymore, but that's about the only engine modification I've done.


I have wider tires than original (215/75R14 vs. 195/75R14) and installed a fat rear stabilizer bar that dramatically cut body lean, and the car actually handles quite well. None of these modifications are that visible, but they certainly add to my driving enjoyment.

I'm currently having transmission trouble, and if the Powerglide needs major work, I'm planning to replace it with a 4-speed automatic overdrive, which should help gas mileage considerably.

03-08-10, 03:00 PM
^Well said. My neighbour has an all original, 68' Chevelle SS 396, and it looks MINT. Beautiful car, and made all the more special because it IS original, but like you said, cars like that are rare.

03-08-10, 11:46 PM
I'm with Gary on this. I love seeing a well-preserved original car as much as anyone, but when the accumulated flaws begin to distract from the integrity of the car's design, or even the physical integrity of the car, it's time for restoration. For myself, if faced with an original but sadly degraded car, I'd opt to restore the car to original appearance, with perhaps some minor modifications to make it more amenable to modern driving. If the car only had a mild patina, but was still physically intact and fully operational, I'd leave it be.